Belgium has a number of reputable festivals all year-round but if you’re looking for a low-key urban initiative, Deurne is now to be added to your summer ‘to-do list’: this municipality of Antwerp premiered a “route of art” and festivities between Wednesday 18th and Sunday 22nd August. Named Deurnroosje after the Sleeping Beauty tale (i.e. Doornroosje in Dutch, which literally translates into the ‘the rose with thorns’), it was organised to demonstrate that this overlooked area also has something to offer. And it proved fairly successful.
Words and photography Vincent Duraud
The idea behind the event burgeoned in the mind of Joke Termonia, who owns a furniture shop and a café in the area. She wanted her part of town to finally step out of Antwerp’s shadow and attract positive public attention to an area usually associated with run-down buildings and lower living standards. Local businesses were closely associated to the event, as a mixture of music performances and artworks were sprinkled around the neighbourhood and mostly on the main street Turnhoutsebaan. This section of the city has become more and more desolate, yet its decline also comes with a very particular history, which has given the little side streets much charm. In what the official program calls “shelter art”, one could spot paintings and sculptures in such random places as DIY stores or electric equipment secondhand shops. The concept encouraged a dynamic relationship with the passerby who could enjoy the thrill of finding the artworks in the middle of old rusty tools or washing machines. The main galleries of the area were also active, such as the Djikstra Gallery, hosting a big opening on the first night.
The gallery manager, André Adriaanse, was the curator for an outdoors art “viewpoint” of the festival as well: he installed seven small containers whose metallic colours and cubic shapes perfectly suited the nearby local cultural centre’s 60s building. “The idea for the festival was there for about a year,” he explains, “but it was only a week before the official start that I was asked by Joke to help.” So he borrowed the containers from the Verbeke Foundation located in rural Flanders, and asked local artists to fill them in. Some of them chose to reflect on the concept of place, whether through photography, sculptures or installations, with model containers or rusty cylinders for example.
The heart of the festival lies in the Salle Jeanne Simons, a bar attached to the Pluym furniture store. There, one will find a young crowd chatting next to older patrons in what could be a romantic movie decor. Anther space Joke Termonia recently acquired was also used for “sleeping room art”, whilst in the back a small warehouse improvised as a concert place saw a string of performances, from modern jazz gigs to poetry reading entitled “the creation of the earth for dummies”. The bohemian atmosphere inherent to the place will enchant the visitor and “help bring attention to Deurne in a more positive way”, according to Joke. “This place is so free, open. Anything goes here”, adds André – who’s casually smoking up in the quiet background garden. Although he readily admits that more organisation efforts, especially regarding publicity, will be necessary next year for the festival to attract more people, he remains optimistic about the future of Deurne.